Committee chairs call for immediate response from State to protect lives and health of Alaskans
ANCHORAGE – The State of Alaska is experiencing incredibly high rates of COVID-19 transmission, with daily records for new cases set multiple times last week and the availability of adult ICU beds now dangerously low.
Public health officials have repeatedly urged statewide policies to slow the spread of the disease, most recently during a House Health and Social Services Committee on October 21. The Dunleavy Administration, however, has failed to enact basic statewide protective measures that we know are effective, like a temporary mask mandate in places where social distancing is difficult, implementing capacity limits in public places, and issuing workplace safety standards.
Instead, as the State saw its highest daily case total yet – 526 on Sunday – the governor told reporters that “we could probably shut the virus down,” protecting elders and Alaskans with underlying health conditions, “but then the cost to do that would be, in my opinion, astronomical.”
“I have witnessed firsthand the heartbreak of frontline providers following the untimely death of a COVID-positive Alaskan, as well as the urgency with which our healthcare community is working to prevent widespread transmission – particularly in vulnerable regions where medical resources are limited,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee. “With virtually every part of the state touched by this pandemic, and some areas reaching a point of exponential growth, refusing to implement statewide protective measures we know stem the tide of COVID-19 infections is reckless and unacceptable.”
“Anyone in power who values the sanctity of human life must use every tool at their disposal to prevent the avoidable deaths of elders and people who are sick,” said Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage), co-chair of the House State Affairs Committee. “The governor’s false claim that public health mandates are ineffective has been repeatedly debunked by doctors and public health experts in legislative hearings that his administration skipped.”
The Legislature has held seven oversight hearings on COVID-19 at which medical providers, public health experts, frontline workers, and employee unions have urged the State to issue a mask mandate and workplace safety standards.
The administration attended only two of the hearings during the pandemic and has not acted on any of these recommendations.